While the future of the automobile is uncertain in many ways (design, fuel, the concept of ownership, etc) there is one area where ambiguity is not to be found. Everyone agrees that driverless cars are the future. Granted there is some debate as to whether or not people will have the choice to drive in this future, but the existence of driverless cars is a matter of inevitability, and to a certain extent a matter of right now.
As Jason Lancaster of AccurateAutoAdvice.com points out in an article he wrote for Newsweek, the technology exist, it’s simply a matter of cost. Lancaster believes there are three stages to automated cars. Stage one is already happening, as cars are equipped with safety features such as blind spot detection systems and lane warning systems. Stages two and three (vehicle to x – or V2X – communications and full autonomous cars respectively) are technically possible now, but a combination of cost and the need for these systems to be perfect are delaying implementation. Lancaster makes the point that the liability would be too great to risk putting these cars on the road now. Lancaster’s timetable for cars that are 100% driverless cars is 15-20 years, meaning I can enjoy my society as it is until my late 30’s before it all radically changes.
The implications of Lancaster’s predictions are rather easy to sum up. He states that self-driving cars and manual cars can coexist, indicating that those who want to hold on to old fashioned driving will be able to do so as long as it is legal. This brings up an important point. As far as Lancaster is concerned the only roadblock self-driving cars faced is the authorities. Depending on one’s point of view, this is a cause for either hope of concern. Fear of the unknown and change have historically been powerful forces, and if society isn’t ready for this technology, politicians will tap into this. And there is also the fact that people have to make the choice to buy these cars, so getting the common man on board is key to moving foreword.
In conclusion, the future is coming, slowly but surely, and we as a society either need to get ready for or reject it out right, because there is no middle ground to progress.